A serious flaw exists in the John Jay College report on the causes and context of the Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal, according to the worldwide Church reform group Voice of the Faithful. The report was made public earlier this year, and the VOTF board of trustees recently reached this conclusion after an internal committee studied the report for several months. The committee’s conclusions were released in October.
VOTF trustee Bill Casey of Alexandria, Va., said, “Although John Jay’s causes and context research credibly documents a 60-year pattern of clergy sexual abuse of minors and clerical cover-up, the report’s serious flaw is failing to name and ascribe how much a clerical culture substantially contributed to that abuse by hiding, enabling and minimizing it.”
In a summary of their John Jay study review called “The John Jay Report: Right Context, Wrong Conclusions,” VOTF trustees challenged as a fundamental influence on sexual abuse of children by clergy the John Jay Report’s emphasis on the link between the peak period of abuses (about 1965-1985) and the deviant behavior in society during the 1960s and 1970s: the “blame Woodstock” approach.
“VOTF believes the John Jay report’s overemphasis on this connection distracts from the Catholic Church hierarchy’s persistent denial and enabling of clergy sexual abuse during the entire 60-year period,” said Dan Bartley, VOTF president. He added that such enabling has been seen most recently in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Houston, where bishops failed to report suspected crimes in a timely and complete way even when mandated to do so.
“We concluded from our review,” said VOTF trustee Mark Mulllaney of Wayland, Mass., “that the John Jay Report’s findings clearly show how Catholic Church hierarchy denied or minimized evidence of clergy sexual abuse of minors and mismanaged the Church’s response to the evidence. Their actions resulted in the harmful treatment of victims, their families and the faith communities for which they had pastoral responsibility. That finding from the report deserved more emphasis.”
According to Bartley, VOTF review faulted the John Jay Report most especially for describing but not naming clericalism as a major contributor to the abuse. “We see clericalism,” he said, “as the attitude on the part of the clergy that they are different than, separate from and above others and therefore exempt from rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society.”
VOTF trustees concluded their John Jay Report review by offering recommendations they said the Catholic Church should adopt to respond to clergy sexual abuse in a believable way for victims and their families, innocent clergy and lay Catholics whose trust in the hierarchy has been deeply damaged.
The recommendations include:
- fully independent and comprehensive audits in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards;
- fully independent diocesan review boards and victim assistance offices;
- specific disciplinary action for bishops who oppose or violate the provisions of their Charter to Protect Children and Young People;
- official support for reform of statutes of limitation for sexual abuse;
- listening sessions nationwide to hear lay people’s, as opposed to clergy, reactions to the sexual abuse scandal and expectations for its full resolution; and
- access by independent investigators to clergy personnel records throughout the U.S., similar to German bishops’ voluntary action in July 2011.
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